Ashtead Choral Society (ACS) last year completed sixty six seasons of music-making, with a reputation for presenting varied and exciting programmes with professional soloists and orchestras. ACS has worked with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Concertante, the London Gala Orchestra and the City of London Chamber Players amongst others.
We sing in a variety of venues during the year including Dorking Halls and local churches.
Ashtead Choral Society was formed by the eminent baritone, George Pizzey, in 1949, followed by an inaugural concert in 1950. From the start the Society adopted a policy of using professional soloists and orchestras. Over the years a number of young soloists at the beginning of their careers have sung for the Society. Several have become well-known, from Janet Baker in the 1950s to Ian Bostridge in the 1990s. The Society has worked with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Hanover Band, London Gala Orchestra and London Concertante as well as with smaller professional ensembles.
Since its inception and up until the appointment of James Henshaw in the 2013/14 season, the choir had only three conductors, George Pizzey, Arthur Diamond and Paul Dodds. They in turn guided the Society as it increased in size during the 70s, 80s and 90s from around 60 singers to its present 120. The size of the choir means it can now perform the larger scale works including Bach’s St John Passion, Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, Waltons’ Belshazzar’s Feast, Britten’s War Requiem and Jenkins’ The Armed Man. The choir also prides itself on its versatility and willingness to embrace new and different musical styles, as for example in performing Fanshawe’s African Sanctus and Will Todd’s Mass in Blue in recent seasons, as well as its warmly-received summer evening concerts of lighter music that have regularly rounded off Ashtead Village Day.
Normally there are three major concerts a year using venues like the Dorking Halls as well as larger churches in the area. The choir has also travelled abroad on a regular basis, usually every two or three years, to sing in the wonderful cities of Europe. The first visit was to Paris in 1987 and since then ACS has visited Cologne, Chartres, Florence, Pisa, Rouen, Salzburg and Verona. The most recent tour was at the end of May 2013 when many members of the choir went to sing in Bruges. They were joined by friends of the choir and had time to see the sights of this beautiful city as well as those of Ypres and Ghent.